Star Wars is dead. Long live Star Wars. Thus proclaimed the Star Wars poster boy depicted on the most famous (or notorious, if you were a Jovian) propaganda piece of the entire Jovian Conflict. Posters appeared all over the planet. The Stick Men never did get it through their narrow skulls. They saw us as a few fuzzy Ewoks barely out of the trees. When we hit Jupiter’s occupying forces like Han Solo offing a careless bounty hunter, their soldiers’ last thoughts were often, “Huh?!” ____Thompson Getty, The Psychology of the Jovian War
Nina was enthusiastic about the Mizpah Hotel project when he told them about it that evening. So was Kate, but she also began to get nervous.
“It’s not the money,” she told them repeatedly. “It’s just not having you here with us for two whole days. You know I get insecure and start having all these paranoid fantasies. Add to that, we’ve got all these real things to worry about, your health and the Guild and maybe even the Feds or local yokels if they happen to be on the Guild payroll like they probably are.”
They were all sprawled on the queen sized bed, watching another glorious sunset. He and Nina slept here. Kate, though still very much his slave, was now also his wife, legally on paper even though the legality had been obtained via illegal means…not unlike most fortunes and political dynasties. The fact that she preferred to use the separate bedroom at the other end of the house might have struck an outsider as more than odd, but they weren’t all that interested in what outsiders thought.
A sudden rattle-rattle-thump! stopped their conversation cold.
“Ai! Oh no! Are you hurt, baby?” The redhead launched from the bed in full panic mode. Cinder Bear, the recently spayed and declawed kitten, the black one, had rolled over and fallen six feet from the top of the gun safe, down in front of the section of wall that had the Star Wars poster boy mural painted on it.
Nina was up almost as fast. “I don’t believe she did that!” the German girl exclaimed. Immediately she joined her slave sister, the two of them hovering over the young cat who was limping and leaving blood spots on the floor. It had only been ten days since her surgery.
“Back up. Let me see her.” Sven moved more slowly but also more surely. Cinder Bear was known to be his favorite; she often slept stretched out with her back snugged against his chest, purring mightily. Until Cin had come along, he’d not known he had a thing for black cats.
“She’ll be all right. I think the impact of the landing spread that paw a bit too widely and split things open just a touch. Let her alone and it should close up on its own and seal right back over.”
“What about her stitches?” Kate wanted to know.
“Her tummy’s okay. Just the one thing in that right front paw.”
“Well, that is the side that took the hit. The other one didn’t even touch down when she hit.”
“So I figured,” the Master of the house nodded. “You saw it?”
“Yes,” his high strung slave wife nodded, “She rolled over and right off the edge. Tried to catch herself and almost did, but couldn’t quite. Her eyes went as wide as that Star Wars poster boy’s eyes are narrow. She did manage to twist around in the air, at least. We have to take them in tomorrow to have the stitiches out. Oh, I hate trying to explain to the vet that we let her fall six feet after she told us not to let them up high for a couple of weeks.”
One side of the former Seeder’s mouth twitched. Without caging them, how on Earth did you keep a cat from seeking the high places? It wasn’t natural. “Yeah, she did. But don’t worry about it. Cinder will be okay, and after we get you girls and the kitties back home, I’ll be heading for Reno.”
“Guess I’d better get hold of myself,” Kate sighed. “I’m going to my room and turn on the coffee pot to settle myself down.”
“Good idea, babe. See you in the morning.”
Nina gave her slave sister a heartfelt hug and kiss before the redhead left, murmering in her ear, “I’ll keep an eye on Cinder Bear for you, Sis.”
“I know you will. I love you both. And you baby kitties, too.” She headed down the hall, collecting her favorite and slightly older cat, the gray and white Harvey, along the way.
Morning came gray and cooler, about thirty-five degrees. Their vet, in fact the only vet in Tonopah as well as the artist who’d painted their Star Wars poster boy mural (in Tonopah you needed multiple income streams), quickly and efficiently removed Curly Girl’s stitches. In Cinder Bear’s case, Doc Lassifer recommended leaving Cinder’s every stitch in place for another week. The black kitten’s fall had produced a soft lump in her belly that moved slowly here and there–fluid generated by friction between layers of traumatized tissue, according to the animal doctor. Cinder returned home in a neck cone, humorously called a “hat” by the vet and her staff.
The cat saw nothing funny about it whatsoever.
Around Tonopah, it hadn’t “felt” necessary to pack any more heat than a tiny nine shot .22 caliber pistol, but hitting the highway was another matter. If anyone–and by that he meant anyone–tried to take him out when he was in or near the car, somebody was going to get a nasty surprise. Pound for pound, his vehicle carried more armament than the Millenium Falcon.
No one had ever seen a Star Wars poster showing a hero without hair or teeth, though, so the analogy wasn’t watertight by a long shot.
When it came to his on-person ordnance, he settled for one addition, a heavy, short barreled but effective retro revolver chambered for .44 Special ammo. You couldn’t find those in the average gun store these days, but that hardly mattered when you loaded your own. Adding a box of loaded full moon clips–most of those would stay in the car–he closed the gun safe and spun the dial.
The girls had their own secret weapons, of course.
It was time to go, but he took a moment to admire the Doc’s artwork that graced the wall behind the safe. Not long ago, a minivan had come through town, every inch of its exterior painted to portray characters and battle scenes, its loudspeaker blaring,
“Wars! Get your Star Wars posters! Posters! Posters!”
“Wars! Get your Star Wars posters! Posters! Posters!”
Whereupon the Sheriff’s Department ‘s S.W.A.T. team had donned their all important combat gear and besieged the brazen peddler with superior firepower. The two hustlers responsible for all the noise were still in the Nye County Jail.
To add insult to injury, the artwork they’d been peddling was pretty third rate stuff.
Well. Definitely time to go. The girls saw him off at the door, tears in their eyes, and he was on his way.
The long, slow, five hour drive to Reno gave the budding entrepeneur time to think. It still seemed odd to move like a snail stuck in molasses after having piloted a flycar at up to nine hundred miles an hour for all those years, but he was getting used to it. Driving was second nature to him no matter what kind of vehicle was involved…but his thoughts wouldn’t stick to business. Tomorrow’s appointment with the apparently irascible and intractable Jeremy Boulder, President and founder of Sandfire Inc., would determine the direction of their future, but he’d gone over every possible detail in his mind so many times there was simply nothing left worth thinking about.
Instead, his mind focused on something that had long puzzled him about the Jovian War.
Reno had caused his mental review; he definitely blamed The World’s Biggest Little City. Blamed it because it was one of those places that seemed to be pretty much the same after the War as it had always been. Professor Hinkley Semmes, a noted educator specializing in the effects of invasion on native populations, had compared the effect to the devastation left behind by a rampaging tornado which left pockets of property completely untouched.
Sven liked that particular analogy. As a teenager, responsible for bringing in firewood to heat his parents’ South Dakota home, he’d often harvested tornado-blasted trees that had been knocked down and were no longer good for anything but firewood. Crosscutting such downed timber into blocks was simple enough.
The trouble came when a guy tried to split the stuff:. Thosee trees had been twisted by the twister like you’d wring water out of a wet towel. They resisted splitting because there was no longer a straight grain running the length of the block. Yet in the midst of any tornado-blasted acreage, there were trees left standing that had not been so much as bumped.
When it came to Jovian impact, Reno was to all intents and purposes an entire city that had not been bumped.
Except for greed, but that had always been Reno’s claim to fame, anyway.
Speaking of author Semmes, didn’t he have a holovee of the man’s latest publication somewhere–yes. There. Driving while watching an erudite discussion might be dangerous in the extreme for a lot of people, but for Sven Jensen the opposite was true. Either the drive or the pedantic dissertation might be boring enough to put a fellow right to sleep, but they canceled each other out if experienced simultanously.
He actually stayed far more alert with something to occupy his mind beyond endless sand and sagebrush, even if that something was a holovee book published by a know-it-all academic.
“C’mon, Semmes,” the man at the wheel whispered to the viewscreen. “Bore me.”